Jun 042014

David Cole – WST, Julie Kuhlken – Pedernales Cellars, Jennifer Beckman – Bending Branch Winery, Ed Dent – WST

WST Greater Houston Chapter Presents Some Mighty Fine, ‘Texas Fine Wine” at Reef

Guest Blog by Ed Dent, The Wine Society of Texas Greater Houston Chapter

The May 31st Greater Houston Chapter of The Wine Society of Texas food and wine event at REEF Restaurant featuring Texas Fine Wines in Houston for the first time was a huge success. The event was sold out by Thursday, with a waiting list. The wines served were Duchman Winery Vermentino, Brennan Vineyards Viognier, Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo and Bending Branch Winery Tannat. Some attendees were treated to Bending Branch’s new Tannat Port. Representing the wineries at this event were Duchman Winery owner Stan Duchman, Julie Kuhlken co-owner of Pedernales Cellars, and Jennifer Beckman,  Sommelier and Director of Marketing at Bending Branch Winery.


Herbert Mitchell, John Adams and Helena Cheng (WST), Dr. Stan Duchman – Duchman Winery

Each winery representative spoke about their wines and winery. There was a question and answer period which included such questions as the future of the Texas wine industry and why was there not enough storage capacity so more wine can be made in the good years and held for the leaner years. Stan Duchman expressed the importance of asking for Texas Wines at your favorite restaurants. Jennifer Beckman indicated that Texas wineries were doing some great things and were winning awards both nationally and internationally. Julie commented how wonderful it was to see how engaged the members of the Texas Wine Society were with Texas wine.

At the end of the evening, a raffle was held for the Wine Society of Texas’s scholarship fund. The wines which were raffled was 2012 GSM from Pedernales Cellars, 2012 Tempranillo from Brennan, 2011 Vermintino from Duchman, and Bending Branch’s 2011 Tannat as well as their sold out Tannat Port.


Greg Frisby, JoAnn Miller, Karie Gulley, Norine Stein and Jan Frisby – WST members

As an added bonus Dr. Duchman donated two tours and tastings for 10 people. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, Jennifer donated a tour and tasting for 10, too. To say the least, the raffle was also successful.

The members of the Greater Houston Chapter of the Wine Society of Texas thank each of the wineries, Bill Floyd, co-owner of REEF, and his staff, as well as all the attendees for such an enjoyable and successful evening.


VintageTexas – Unfortunately, I was out of town the weekend of the WST Texas Fine Wine dinner event and was unable to attend. But, I did manage to get back in time for a Texas Fine Wine trade tasting that was also held at REEF the following Monday afternoon. Under the watchful eye and guitar of Willie Nelson (see below), and appetizers provided by Chef Brian Caswell, I had a chance to taste wines from all four wineries (Duchman, Bending Branch, Brennan and Pedernales Cellars). The tasting was commendable both for its quality and breadth of grape varieties and styles. Keep in mind, Texas is just about the same size as France and France offers quite a wide range of wines and styles, too. Texas Fine Wine is truly a diverse group, too. Remember, what brings them together is the desire to promote Texas wines from the standpoint of their quality, which I am glad to say is very competitive to well-accepted brands in the marketplace.


 Posted by at 2:08 pm
May 222014

Portal to Austin’s Red Room Lounge

The Sip – Season One Shows Its Time to Go Texan or Go Thirsty

I exited the bright afternoon Austin street scene through a ruddy red door under a black awning. Not much else other than the 306A address on the door told me I was in the right place. As my eyes fought to handle the low light inside, I was met face-to-face by Ed Auler’s familiar face of Fall Creek Vineyard exiting followed by a voice inside that said, “Watch your step going down the stairs.”

The event was “The Sip: Season One” organized by Austin drinks blogger, media contributor and all around good PR guy Matt McGinnis and hosted at the Red Room Lounge while the tents and fences from the recent Austin Food & Wine Festival were still being disassembled. In The Sip, Matt organized a tasting of Texas wines from some of the best hill country wineries: Fall Creek Vineyards, Inwood Estates Vineyards, Perissos Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Sandstone Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards and Stone House Vineyards.


The Sip, Season One at Red Room Lounge

Inside the Red Room Lounge, the dim ambient light and red walls were background for an impressive array of glassware aligned in place settings on a long wooden table with crisp halogen lights directed down from above. The goal of the event was a blind tasting of Texas wines and similar non-Texas wines and to try to define the characteristics of those from Texas or other places around the world unencumbered by their labels. Joining the tasters were winemakers from each winery that included: Ed and Susan Auler and their winemaker Sergio Cuadra (Fall Creek), Dan Gatlin (Inwood Estates), Seth Martin (Perissos), Angela Moench (Stone House), Ron Yates (Spicewood) and Don Pullum (Sandstone Cellars and Pontotoc). Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:02 pm
May 212014

Texas Fine Wines – Cooperation of Four Fine Texas Wineries

Texas Fine Wine: Four of Texas’s Most Distinguished Wineries in Houston at WST Dinner May 31

Boo! I’m not in town the weekend of May 31st, but hopefully you will be. You can attend an amazing wine dinner at James Beard nominated Chef Brian Caswell’s REEF.

At this event, wine enthusiasts can taste wines from four national and international award-winning Texas wineries at the first-ever Texas Fine Wine pairing dinner on Saturday, May 31 at REEF in Houston.  Hosted by the Greater Houston Chapter of the Wine Society of Texas, the dinner features new vintages from the four Texas Fine Wine wineries:  Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars.

Texas Fine Wine was founded in early 2014 to promote this distinctive group of highly respected wineries dedicated to producing quality wines sourced from Texas appellation vineyards.

Brian Caswell – One of F&W Best New Chefs

“We appreciate the enthusiasm of the Houston Wine Society and REEF to feature wines from Texas Fine Wine for this May dinner,” says Dr. Stan Duchman, Houston-based owner of Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood.  “This is a terrific opportunity to taste four wine varieties that show great promise in Texas.”

Wine enthusiasts are invited to attend the five-course dinner paired with these Texas wines:

  • Pickled shrimp, smoky remoulade with Duchman Vermentino
  • Roasted beet, goat cheese, country ham, arugula salad with Brennan Viognier
  • Grilled cobia, bulgogi potato, snow peas, Asian pear salad with Pedernales Tempranillo
  • Roasted pork loin, cherry mustard with Bending Branch Tannat
  • Dark chocolate terrine, balsamic strawberries

Winery representatives will attend and speak at the dinner, which starts at 7 p.m. at REEF, 2600

Travis (at McGowen).  The cost is $75 per person, all inclusive. Reservations can be made by calling 713.526.8282.


The Wine Society of Texas is a 501c3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to:

  • Enhance the appreciation of wine, especially Texas wines
  • Educate the experienced as well as the beginning wine taster,
  • Promote the wine makers, and grape growers,
  • Foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture,
  • Help in charitable activities throughout the state of Texas, and
  • Promote the responsible consumption of wine.

Media Contacts:

Texas Fine Wine: Denise Clarke, denise@deniseclarkePR.com; 512.899.0004

Greater Houston Wine Society of Texas: Ed Dent, EDENT24@aol.com, 713.705.8574


 Posted by at 9:40 am
May 122014

Newsom Vineyards – High Plains Site of 2014 Newsom Grape Day

Newsom Grape Day & Tempranillo Symposium: Five Things I Leaned About Texas Wine

Last Friday was the annual gathering of grape growers and winemakers from around the state in Neal Newsom’s “Barn-atorium” surrounded by his Newsom family vineyards near Plains, Texas. The big white metal structure was filled nearly to capacity with what Neal described as likely to be “a record-breaking attendance”. The only question remaining was only the total attendance which had already acceded the RSVPs, filled the available seats, and left standing room only for the remainder of the attendees.

While the prior evening’s drive from Lubbock was made a bit made exciting by clouds of red sand blow up by the 35 mph wind on FM2196, the morning of the meeting was still and crisp at 49 F. The sun cast long day-break shadows down the rows of grapevines in the adjacent vineyard blocks.


The Newsom Grape Day events were summarized by Jeff Cope on his Texas Wine Lover blog. Presentations focused on Texas high plains grape growing and factors that contribute to bringing quality and value to Texas wines. I’ve tried to boil down what I learned to five major points that need to be conveyed to all Texas wineries, vineyards and interested consumers after listening to the presentations and from discussions of the attendees:

  • Number 1 – Texans Should Look to Spain for Knowing What to Look for in Texas Wines.  According to Dr. Ed Hellman at Texas Tech, Tempranillo is well positioned for Texas wine. It the most heavily planted red grape in the wine regions of Spain, a country that has similar latitude and elevation to many places in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains viticultural areas. The overlap in latitude comes at 36 degrees north latitude with Texas being somewhat lower with higher average temperatures. However, western Texas generally has higher elevations that bring cool night time temperatures that helps to produce high quality grapes. Continue reading »
 Posted by at 2:08 pm
May 052014

Grape Creek Vineyards Owner, Brian Heath, launching a cork from his newly released Euphoria sparkling wine!

Grape Creek Vineyards Releases Euphoria: Texas Sparkling Wine

A long time ago, I mused in the blog about Texans and their love for sparkling wines (click here). However, there have been darn few sparklers actually made right here in the Lone Star state. That’s why I was so excited when to herd about Grape Creek Vineyards release of their new sparkling wine, “Euphoria”.

In celebration of this event, Owners Brian & Jennifer Heath and Winemaker Jason Englert held a premier release and tasting of Grape Creek Vineyard’s FIRST sparkling wine.  They billed it as Experience Euphoria!  


I came early to get a sip with Brian Heath. Before I knew it, Brian grabbed a bottle of Euphoria and a couple of glasses and asked me to follow him out on the winery’s well wooded grounds. There, he unfastened the wire closure on the bottle and launched a cork. Brian said, “You know, I really love doing this! It’s the fun part of owning a winery.” While the power of the carbonation only powered the cork about 15 feet, the wine that flowed forth was worthy of attention. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:01 am
Apr 302014

Ol’ Gabe’s Homestead Winery Malbec

Malbec World Day: Some Great Texas Malbecs, too!

I must admit to being behind the curve. I didn’t acknowledging the worldwide celebration of Malbec wines (Malbec World Day) held on April 17th. I really have no excuse; but I’d like caught up on this. I’m a great fan of wines made from the Malbec grape. They generally are dark and purple, friendly to firm, and incredibly fine paired with food, especially meat…grilled meat as I’ve experienced in Argentina.

As very nicely summarized, “Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine and is being grown around the world.” Click for more.


Let me say that late last year and especially during the past month, I’ve had the pleasure to have some mighty fine Malbec wines. I started with Clos Siguier, a French Cahors. It was dark, fruity and with a firm tannic grip. It paired well with mixed outdoor grill on a fine fall Houston evening. Starting with France and moving on to other places like Argentina and, even Texas, shows the legacy and adaptability of the Malbec grape. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:11 pm
Apr 272014

Guy Stout, Master Sommelier, at Buffalo Gap Tasting

Buffalo Gap W&F Summit: Guy Stout’s Tasting Spectacular

Yesterday morning at 10 am, we were presented with a 21 wine rapid fire tasting prepared and presented by Guy Stout, Certified Master Sommelier, Corporate Director of Beverage Education for The Glazer’s Family of Companies and the only self-proclaimed “Cowboy Sommelier” that I know. It was a mash up of wines from Argentina, Texas and California, but well organized generally in order of light an bright to thick and chewy.


Of the 21 wines, 9 were well chosen examples of the wines from Texas. Guy led-off with a white wine from his own lone star state, Duchman Family Winery Vermentino with lemon lime notes and an underlying minerally character. My friend Alfonzo, please noticed that I didn’t use the no-no word – “minerality” anywhere in that wine description.  Winemaker Todd Webster presented Brennan Vineyards Viognier is perhaps a classic example of today’s Texas wine; clean and crisp with medium body and notes of peach and a hint of jasmine. Gary McKibben presented his Red Caboose Winery Lenoir-Tempranillo blend. Lenior (aka Black Spanish, Jacquez) that showed how Lenoir can be integrated into an excellent table wine as a partner with Tempranillo, the leading contender for the leading red grape in Texas.

About midway through the tasting four Texas wines were presented back-to-back. These included the Bending Branch Winery Tempranillo (Texas High Plains) that was whole berry fermented to provide a mouthful of black cherry characteristics, and the always fun and pleasing McPherson Cellars Tre Colore, a blend of red grapes (Carignan and Mourvedre) along with a white grape (Viognier). It is a great red wine for warm Texas summers particularly if served slightly chilled.

Then came one of my favorite wines in Guy’s tasting. It was  Pedernales Cellars GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend). As indicated by Perdenales’s President, Fredrik Osterberg, it was a classic blend with a “Texas twist”. This GSM was clean and crisp with red and black fruit characteristics and a delightful and lively nose with both fruit notes and vanilla and spice from barrel aging. The four-set of Texas wines was completed by Llano Estacado Winery Cellar Reserve Merlot (Newsom Vineyards – Texas High Plains). Llano VP and executive winemaker, Greg Bruni, presented the wine and described is medium body and plum fruit notes. This wine should remind us that Merlot, while not always in the spotlight in Texas, is a versatile grape for Texas.


Another show stopper was a pre-release tasting of the Lost Oak Winery Gold Label Shiraz presented by winemaker Jim Evans. This wine was rich with sweet blackberry fruit mixed with smoky and minerals, qualities that makes this wine equally at home as a sipper or when enjoyed in combination with a grilled rare steak.

Closing out the Texas representatives on this international wine panel was Dr. Richard Becker (co-founder of the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit) and owner of Becker Vineyards. He presented his proprietary red blend – Raven. Normally, this wine is a blend of Malbec and Petite Verdot, but in 2009, he lost his Malbec to a late spring freeze and decided to pair what he thought was some pretty darn good PV with Texas Hill Country Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a premium red blend and brought both the deep color and chewiness of the PV with a delightful tannic structure and aromas from the Cabernet.

I’d be remiss not to highlight the two wines from Argentina that included Alamos Malbec and the Don Migel Gascon Malbec both from the Argentine Mendoza region (very much like our own Texas High Plains) that has brought this grape to the international forefront and defined its character. These were both thick, dark and well extracted wines with a vibrant purple color and blackberry, blueberry and cherry notes with a hint of mocha.


By noon, we were finished with Guy’s 21 wine tasting and exited the tent to seek out lunch prepared by Stephen Pyles with a menu derived from his Stamplede66 restaurant offerings. Honey Fried chicken and Texas grass fed Wagyu beef brisket were accompanied by chopped salad, German potato salad all served under the live oak trees on the Perini Ranch with a wonderful bottle of bright red Malbec Rose’ from Brennan Vineyards [I love that color].


I finished off lunch with a seasonal berry cobbler and a Dr. Pepper float with Snickers ice cream. Now, for the nap!



 Posted by at 9:50 am
Apr 262014

Picadas of Lamb around the fire

2014 Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit: A Celebration of the Favors of Argentina

At Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, it was an experience of primary colors. The foundation was of dusty red west Texas soil. Immediately overhead was a silky sea of lime green mesquite leaves cast against the azure blue sky. All around was pungent white smoke that arose from the culinary seven fires of Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann. The question in my mind as I entered the grounds was, would it be as I experienced in Argentina in past years. Well, it was that, and more!

The fires were started at 7 am to slow cook lamb splayed on classic picadas. Grass fed beef ribeyes were roasting on metal grates. Vegetables were buried to cook underground, and chickens tucked into balls hanging on hooks. Walking among the seven fires was a pre-dinner treat while sipping on Argentine Torrontes or Texas Merlot as nothing would be served until 7 pm. Tom Perini from Buffalo Gap’s Perini Steakhouse  and Chef Mallmann worked in the pit stopping for an occasional rest and chat, perhaps to share cowboy and gaucho cooking tips.


Buffalo Gap’s Tom Perini and Argentina’s Chef Mallmann overseeing the pit.

This year’s Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit was a 10th anniversary affair billed as “a taste of Argentina in Texas”. It brought the meat-based cuisine and wines of Argentina together with wines from Argentina, Texas and California. The dinner on Friday evening was everything we had watched earlier that day served in four family style courses along side 16 wines. Featured Texas wines included:

With Argentina as the feature of this year’s Summit, there were several wines presented made from the signature grape of that country, Malbec; featuring Argentina’s Don Miguel Gascon Malbec Reserva, Ramian Estate Malbec (Napa), Truchard Vineyards Malbec (Carneros Napa), and Meeker Vineyards (Sonoma County) Malbec.


Friday Dinner Gathering at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit with Chef Mallmann speaking.

Malbec is an intensely purple grape used in making red wine with an Argentine style with an inky dark color and robust flavor of blackberries.  This grape originated in the area of Cahors in South West France. However, it is increasingly distinguished as an Argentine varietal wine with it distinctive style. One of the interesting similarities discussed is that between the Argentine Mendoza wine growing region and that of the Texas High Plains around Lubbock. Both regions are high altitude arid areas backed by evening higher mountains. Whereas the Mendoza averages around 2400 ft in elevation, the Texas High Plains starts at about 3200 feet and goes up to 4000 ft. Both share intense sunny dry conditions.


A sip of Alamos Torrontes under the shade of a Live Oak tree at Buffalo Gap.

 Posted by at 4:52 pm
Apr 232014

Live Viognier Buds on High Plains Cane Pruned Viognier After the Recent Freeze

Texas High Plains Report: It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

I just received a photo from a certain (and notable) viticulturist on the high plains. Like many that reside near him, he didn’t hold out much hope for the naked and infantile buds on the vines in his area after last week’s freeze. This sad prognosis was particularly true for the early budding and Texas popular white grape varieties like Viognier. Click here for more.

But, as you can see in the picture above, the tender gray-green of life still exists at multiple points on a cane of Texas high plains Viognier.

As you may have seen commented during the past week on Facebook or the Yahoo Groups Texas Winegrowers, many high plains grape growers used a variety and often multiple approaches to mitigate the spring freeze. Some used newly installed wind turbines while others burned hay, cotton and what other surplus materials they had at hand. Some made fires while also moving air around over their vineyards with helicopters flying aloft.

Another perhaps more subtle but apparently still effective approach is the one shown in the photo. It’s called Cane pruning. This is hardly a new and innovative approach to vineyard management, but one commonly used in cooler climate and higher latitude winegrowing like in Burgundy. It might seem a bit contra-intuitive. After all Texas IS a warm growing, low latitude wine growing region, right? In such areas, a common vine pruning technique is spur pruning. If you go to southern Rhone Valley in France or in many places in California you will usually see spur pruned grapevines. What’s up?

Well, in spur pruning you look at the new, one-year-old wood growing from the spurs (spurs are long canes that are pruned to the size of short twigs) of a cordon (or arms of the vine extending from the trunk). What you usually want are two to four buds on each spur. This is achieved by pruning off everything else. As the new growth progresses from these spurs, it will be trained by attaching it to a trellis wires. In this method, you basically have only a few shots at viable bud growth. But, the good part of it is that it focuses the vine’s energy to producing as much fruit as it can from these few shoots.

Cane pruning involves cutting back nearly all of the last year’s growth. To cane prune a grapevine, normally two well-formed canes growing out of the head of the vine are spared. These canes are tied to the trellis wire. These remaining canes provide many more possibilities for viable growth than usually available from spur pruning. This is why it is often used in colder regions that have late freezes and unfavorable spring weather that can adversely affect the buds. On the downside, it is more manual labor intensive than spur pruning and it can limit the maximum production capacity of the vine than with spur pruning.

I’m far from an expert on grapevine pruning, but from the continuous issues caused in Texas from spring freezes and from the initial results, cane pruning may be another new arrow in the Texas winegrowers quiver to shoot at our springtime weather problems that greatly limit Texas grape and wine production.

 Posted by at 9:36 pm
Apr 222014


Join the Fun at Bending Branch Winery Kentucky Derby Extravaganza

Bob Young, John Rivenburgh and Jennifer Beckmann and the whole crew at Bending Branch Winery invite you to join them and other Texas wine aficionados at their 4th Annual Kentucky Derby Extravaganza on May 3rd. 11 am to 6 pm.  This event has grown in popularity year after year and you will have a ball.

It is big field of twenty-six contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Actually, there are too many to follow closely and no bet will be a sure thing. So, rather than losing your money betting on the horses, come on out to Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas. You can celebrate the day of America’s favorite horse race sipping some Picpoul Blanc or other fine Bending Branch wines.

Bending Branch has certainly raised eyebrows all around the state with the stunning award to their Estate Tannat wine as the best Texas wine in this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.

The Bending Branch Kentucky Derby Extravaganza is free to attend and will feature Traditional Hot Brown Sandwiches, Picpoul Blanc Mint Juleps and Award Winning Wines for purchase.  Live Jazz will be performed from 1-5pm.


There will also be a horseshoe tournament held through the afternoon. There will also be local milliners featuring their creations for sale, and we will be unveiling limited edition Derby posters signed and numbered by Keely Corona Smith.  Sponsoring the event this year is San Antonio Magazine, who will also be judging the Parade of Hats & Hat Competition!

Bending Branch Winery, 142 Lindner Branch Trail, Comfort, TX 78013 830-995-2948; for directions, click here.


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 Posted by at 7:05 pm